Before starting out on a job search, you need to have a clear objective and be able to communicate why this is a great employment objective for you. You’ll find much greater success and happiness on the job if you’re working at something that suits your personality, skill sets and values. The best way to find that perfect match is to conduct a self-assessment.


  • Find your ideal work environment
  • Explore your interests
  • Discover yourself
  • Know your options
  • Make a good decision

Conducting the self-assessment

The self-assessment is a structured but informal way of getting to know what you really want, what options are available and how to make the best decision for your career. Following are the three steps to making it all happen.

Know yourself

You may think, “Of course I know myself. I’ve lived on my own, held down a job, and I know what I like. I just haven’t figured out what career I want yet.” Choosing a career requires much more than knowing your likes and dislikes and having work experience. You need a clear idea of your strengths, values, skills and personality type. This self-knowledge is essential in choosing a career, applying to graduate school, writing a resumé and doing well in interviews.

Find your ideal work environment
Here are a few questions that will help you figure out your ideal work environment:

  • Type of work: What are the kinds of work that interest you, that you’re good at, that make the best use of your abilities and that give you a feeling of accomplishment?
  • Security: Is it important to you to have a job that provides steady employment?
  • Status: Does it matter to you that you work for a company with a good reputation, or that you have an impressive job title?
  • Advancement: Do you want to be able to progress in your job or career?
  • Pay and benefits: How much do you have to earn to meet your needs? Is it essential that your job have a benefits package?
  • Work/life balance: Is it important to you to have working hours that allow enough time with family and/or to pursue other interests and live your preferred lifestyle?
  • Working conditions: How much do you value having physical working conditions that are safe, comfortable and not stressful?
  • Location: Does it matter to you where you work? (This may be important because of the line of work you want to be involved in, or because of the need to commute to work, or because of family considerations.)
  • Values: Is it important that you be contributing to an organization that meets your values? (e.g., green organization, product/service meets your moral code)
  • Social interaction: Do you expect that your place of employment will provide your social life? Is it important to you that your colleagues will also be your friends?

Explore your interests

Another great way to find out what career path you should take is to examine your school and work achievements. This will help you identify your abilities—are you mechanical, verbal, numerical, artistic, social? It’s also a good idea to talk with family and friends about where your strengths and skills lie.

Once you’ve determined what you’re good at, consider what you like doing. What hobbies, community projects and campus activities have you been involved in? For each activity or initiative, write down the following:

  • Why you were interested
  • What you were good at
  • What you valued about it

Discover yourself

You may want to try some online quizzes and activities as part of your self-assessment process. Many career quizzes can be fun but aren’t very scientific. So make sure you take at least two scientifically valid self-assessments to ensure that you don’t misidentify your personality type or characteristics. Tip: Talk with your college career counsellors, who are trained to recognize valid career tests.

Following are a few links to help you get started. They’ll take you to federal government websites offering access to career-related inventories, quizzes and other resources that can help with your self-assessment.

Know your options

By now, you should have developed a few job targets based on what you’ve learned about yourself. So get ready to begin researching occupations, work environments and future prospects. You can do some of this online, but you should also speak with people working in jobs that you’re considering. Following are some resources that will help you get started:

  • CanLearn is a federal government tool that links you to occupations listed in the National Occupational Classification (NOC). You’ll find a brief description of the key tasks performed by people in each occupation, as well as salary information, educational requirements and schools offering the required programs.
  • Youth Canada Occupations offers a useful compilation of links to many other websites—such as the sector council websites—that will help you in your search.

In addition to online resources, you can also make an appointment at your educational institution’s career centre and ask a counsellor about:

  • Alumni profile lists, or a volunteer mentor database, of individuals who have agreed to speak to students about careers.
  • Workshops focusing on careers in your area of interest.

You may also want to try contacting the professional association representing the occupation you’re interested in. These associations often have member volunteers who have offered to speak with students.

One final way of learning more about occupations is to speak directly to individuals working in that field. The best way to accomplish this is to conduct an information interview.

Once you have an idea of the type of job you want, and the education you’ll need to get there, a variety of websites will help you find educational institutions offering the required training:

Make a good decision

If you’ve completed your self-assessment and researched occupations and academic requirements, you may already know what career path is calling you. But if you’re still uncertain, there’s another step that will help to ensure that the occupation you’ve selected really is right for you—jump in and try it. As a student, you will probably have access to a wide range of work-integrated learning opportunities, including:

  • Job shadowing
  • Internships
  • Co-op education
  • Service-based learning

Ask the head of your academic program about available opportunities, or speak with career centre staff to learn more.

A final piece of advice: there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind. Sometimes even after going through the self-assessment process, people find that they may not want to work full time in an area they’re passionate about; some people prefer to keep that passion for their own time and pursue something else in the workplace. Be flexible. You may change careers many times in your life—enjoy the experience.